India vs South Africa: 'Surprised' Temba Bavuma wants to change 'perception'
DHARAMSALA: What does it take to succeed across formats, and why do only a handful of players make the grade? A modern batting great like Virat Kohli makes scoring across formats look easy, and Jasprit Bumrah has changed perceptions by showing he is adept at dominating batsmen with both the red and white ball. Yet, for every Bumrah and Kohli, there may be a few dozen Pujaras and Krunal Pandyas who are pigeonholed as specific-format cricketers.
Once labelled as such, it's a tall order to convince selectors, coaches and captains that they have the skills and deserve opportunities across the board.
There are also the ones who struggle to justify the faith reposed in them, like KL Rahul, who recently lost his place in the Test side. Rohit Sharma, a colossus in white-ball cricket, will get a rare opportunity to open in the Tests against South Africa. Home conditions will aid him but it will be interesting to see if he can alter general notions about his technique.
South African batsman Temba Bavuma, for example, knows exactly how hard it is to fight such labels. He is now 36 Tests old, having made his debut in 2014, and has played a mere two ODIs, even though he has an ODI hundred. He says he was “surprised” to learn he had been picked for the T20Is in India, in spite of having worked hard to improve his batting in white-ball formats.
“Back home, there’s a perception that I’m a red-ball player. I knew at the back of my mind that white-ball cricket was something I wanted to play. This (opportunity) has come a bit earlier than I thought. I’d like to do the most I can.”
Bavuma knows perception is often reality, so even after success in domestic T20 games he wasn’t expecting the call. Modern cricket is all about data crunching and maximizing specific skill-sets, and it’s no wonder coaches seek out horses for courses. Yet, true hard work shines through, and the likes of Bavuma would do well to take a leaf from Kohli’s book.
The key to multi-format success, according to Kohli, is not talent but training, coupled with a booster shot of humility: one must simply find the “safest way” to score across formats.
“Firstly, you require a lot of hard work to keep working on your game, do different things,” Kohli said. “The most important thing is to find out the safest way possible to score runs in all formats. So you have to think of that, rather than go into the game thinking, ‘I am going to sweep this fast bowler.’ Then I will look stupid, so I try to mould my game according to my strengths.
"That’s been my strategy and strength over the years. Mindset matters. (If) you want to do well for the team in every format, you have to play that format with respect. Every game that I play I give 120 percent,” Kohli added.
Kohli is talking from experience and boasts a proven track record. Bavuma, having been labelled as a red-ball cricketer early on in his career, is seeking motivation elsewhere.
“People are quick to label you as certain type of player and that can be a good and a bad thing. Proving people wrong is always an extra bit of motivation,” he said.
SA's assistant T20 batting coach Lance Klusener is helping Bavuma make a successful transition.
“He recently got a hundred in the CSA T20 final,” Klusener said of Bavuma. “It’s easy to pigeonhole him and say, okay, he plays Test cricket; but Temba is a wonderful all-round cricketer. I am uncomfortable saying he is a red-ball cricketer. He is not the biggest guy who can muscle the ball over the fence, but there are different ways of doing it.”
Which brings us back to Kohli and his wonderfully lucid mantra: work hard, then find the safest way to leave a strong impression.